In 2010, Philadelphia Dance Projects (PDP) presented a revival of dance works originally performed in 1980 by composer Dan Martin and dancers/choreographers Michael Biello, Jano Cohen, Terry Fox, Wendy Hammarstrom, and Ishmael Houston-Jones. This reconstruction of work initiated a new endeavor called the Local Dance History Project, led by PDP executive director Terry Fox. LDHP is a collaborative effort with the artists to launch a website that shares Philadelphia’s dance history through images, videos, artist narratives, historical notes, and an interactive timeline that allows other local dance artists to join in on the discussion and share their work.
“Planning Artist-Driven Archives” addresses the dance field’s need for a new vision of how its heritage can be preserved through the involvement of artists in developing their own models to document their legacies and creative processes. The concept of artist-driven archives will shift the practice of archiving from an end-of-career process that consists of transferring materials to a repository where they are processed without input from the artist, to an ongoing, integral part of the creative process—a process that engages dance artists in developing more meaningful, individual, living ways to document their work and connect with their audiences. Rather than seeing archives as “dusty boxes” of old materials, this project will advance a vision of archives as a vital component of dance-making.
In November, 2013, the Dance Heritage Coalition convened three focus groups to explore aspects of the artist-driven archive concept. Participants including artists, archivists, and arts presenters shared and discussed case studies, experiences, ideas, questions, challenges, and visions. The meetings were built around three models framing different approaches to the goal of the artist-driven archive. The blogs presented here follow the same three models:
- Archiving Artistic Legacy: how can artists creatively re-purpose or re-contextualize their legacy materials and envision their legacies through the construction of archives?
- Documenting the Creative Process: how can archiving become part of the creative process, rather than merely documenting products? How can artists’ intentions, methods, and working process be captured and preserved?
- Documenting Creative Spaces: how can arts producers and venues partner with artists to archive multiple creative legacies as well as their own institutional histories?
In spearheading this project, the Dance Heritage Coalition builds on experience working directly with dance artists and companies to organize and safeguard their archives and develop sustainable long-term plans for their legacies. “Planning Artist-Driven Archives” was first conceived by the Center for Creative Research (CCR), originally based at New York University under the directorship of Dana Whitco. It builds on ideas and inquiries developed by founding fellows of CCR, an artist-driven think tank and interdisciplinary research center. Several of the key founding members of CCR remain crucial contributors to “Planning Artist-Driven Archives.”
The documentation provided here is intended to catalyze field-wide discussion, and we invite submission of questions, comments, and ideas. One outcome of the project will be the creation of a cohort committed to an implementation plan for a larger, multi-year, inter-institutional archives initiative.